He stood in the front hall, surrounded by suitcases, duffel bags, backpacks, and an assortment of other bags. It was all the bags they had managed to scrounge up. His wife and daughter were lounging on the couch in the living room, the TV tuned to some repeat of a popular children’s show he recognized, but didn’t know the name of. While they were enjoying the last hour in their home, he was counting up their luggage to make sure they hadn’t overdone it, hadn’t packed more than they were allowed to take with them, but still had everything they would need for their new lives. He checked off all the items on his list of things they needed and things they wanted to take to make sure they felt at home on the starship they would be boarding that night.
“Aren’t you done yet?” Rose called out to him. “You’ve been counting and checking your lists for the past hour. I think we’ll be okay.”
“I just want to be sure, honey,” he called back distractedly, his eyes focused on the papers on his clipboard, a pen stuck behind one ear. “I can’t have anything I need missing from one of our bags.”
Rose rolled her eyes. She knew her husband had already gathered and packed everything he needed to continue his career in space because he had already packed most of it up and sent it off early. She should know; she had helped him pack and cross things off his list that morning. Everything was all there, and what wasn’t there was already aboard the starship. Nick could just get so paranoid at times that it drove her crazy. And this was starting to become one of those times.
“Mommy,” Iris said, pulling on her mother’s sleeve, her attention wandering from the TV screen. “Is Daddy going crazy? Why does he think we’re going on a trip?”
“Shh, darling,” Rose said soothingly, running a hand over Iris’s hair. They still hadn’t told their daughter she was going to get to live. And they wouldn’t tell her until after she had said good bye to Alice for the last time and they were on their way to the starship’s location. They couldn’t have anyone knowing about the ships. “Daddy just needs to do this. You know how organized he is. It keeps him busy and from terrorizing us.”
Iris nodded and settled back into her seat, her eyes wandering back to the TV and becoming glued to the screen where some odd little green creatures were singing and dancing around. “Daddy’s weird.”
“Yes, darling,” Rose said indulgently. “He is.”
“When do I get to see Alice?”
“Soon, darling. We’ll head over to her house in a little bit, okay?”
Iris nodded and, within minutes, was once again fully engrossed in her cartoons, singing along with the dancing green creatures. Rose knew it would only last five or ten minutes before Iris’s attention started to wander again, so she quickly stood and slipped out into the hall to check on her husband.
“Really, Nick,” she said softly as she approached him with her arms crossed. “I’m positive you have everything you need for your work and we have everything we need for our new lives. Please just come and enjoy some time with us.”
Nick shook his head as he crossed another two items off his list. “No. I have to be absolutely sure I and we have everything we need. Now, please, just keep Iris entertained.”
Rose sighed and didn’t move from where she stood, instead choosing to start tapping her foot impatiently. After a few moments, Nick peered up at her from his paper laden clipboard with an annoyed expression. She was still standing there, arms crossed and foot tapping. The foot tapping got to him every time. She knew he loved her dearly, but she also knew she had absolutely no rhythm, and he hated it.
“Would you mind stopping that?” he asked. “It’s interrupting my concentration.”
“You’re finished, Nick,” Rose said, reaching out and grabbing his clipboard before he could move. She turned, clipboard tucked under her arm, and marched back to her daughter. “You may as well join us until we have to go. Enjoy the house while you still can.”
Nick sighed and glanced around him at all the bags neatly lined up in three rows near the front door. While Iris and Rose were over at Alice’s house, he would be seeing that their luggage was packed up into the car that was being sent around to take them to the starship’s location. Without his lists and notes for what was staying and what they were taking, there wasn’t much he could do to triple check everything. Unwilling to rely on his memory for so important a task, he joined his wife and daughter in watching cartoons, hoping all of the bags were in the front hall and not scattered somewhere else around the house.
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